Planning for family members with mental health problems can be difficult. Knowing what the person can handle on their own and what they need assistance for can be difficult to understand. It can also be a moving goal, which changes from year to year or even week to week in some cases.
Often the person gets by on their own. Sometimes with the help of a parent or sibling. But what if that parent or sibling dies by letting them go alone. More distant family members may sense that something is wrong, but they may not know what to do. And they may feel like they have no legal obligation to do anything. Fear of doing the wrong thing can keep people away.
There is also the mental health issue to be addressed, which many people may not understand especially if the person has not been diagnosed. It is common for someone to show signs of mental illness but never get a diagnosis or treatment. Family members are left on the sidelines to guess what the diagnosis is and how to help.
If you have someone in your family struggling with these issues, here are five ways you can provide support.
• Offer a “lifeline”. Don’t assume someone else is helping your friend or family member. Every person should be treated with dignity and respect and should receive help when they need it. You can ask the person what help he needs and if he has someone you can turn to. If they have no one, you can contact a family member you know or the local mental health department or the aging council, if appropriate.
• Get your legal documents in order. If the person has skills and someone has been identified to assist them, a lawyer can draw up the necessary documents to give the named person the legal authority necessary to make financial and health decisions. Typically, this includes a durable power of attorney, a health proxy, and a HIPAA exemption.
• Consider a protection. If the person does not have the necessary capacity to sign such legal documents, protection may be required. There are two types of protection, a protection on the property of the person (often called protection) and a protection on the person himself. A guardian makes decisions about the person’s assets such as bank and brokerage accounts and real estate, while the guardian makes decisions about where the person lives, choice of doctors and medications.
• Find the right kind of protection for the situation. The safeguards can be of a limited nature. For example, perhaps the person needs help finding accommodation in addition to selecting and directing caregivers, but most of the other things they can do on their own. In such a case limited guardianship may be recommended with the person who otherwise goes about his or her daily life alone. The same would apply to a conservatory. Maybe the conservative oversees his large brokerage account, but he has a small bank account and a debit card with $ 500 a month that he can use when he goes out for lunch and coffee.
• Create a support circle. There is often certainty in numbers. Unfortunately, without the proper “guardrails”, these scenarios can lead to human abuse or financial exploitation. Often a circle of people around the person is the best safety net as it prevents a person from having control over the person. This group of individuals can include a family member or friend, one or more doctors, a lawyer, and someone from the community such as a social worker. A group of caring people surrounding the person can lead to them feeling more supported and can relieve some of the stresses in their life.